5 Movies from the 90’s Worth Watching Again
The 90’s was a time of amazing fashion (it wasn’t), amazing music (some of it), but also some classic movies, like Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, and The Silence of the Lambs. But there are a lot of movies that are forgotten in fairly short order, and lots of people have no idea what I’m talking about when I reference them, so here’s my list of five movies from the 90’s that you may not remember, but you should watch this weekend.
1. Sweet and Lowdown – 1999
Sweet and Lowdown is a documentary made by Woody Allen, about jazz legend Emmet Ray, who’s ego and narcissism are built on the fact that he’s the best guitar player in the world (except for a gypsy in France named Django Rheinhardt). It’s not really a documentary, although it feels like one, with a series of both real and fake jazz historians relating a series of anecdotes about Ray, played by Sean Penn. The music and period are both great, and the documentary structure allows Allen to connect what would otherwise be a series of unconnected stories into a larger film about the meaning of talent and how talented people are often not great human beings. In the end, it’s Penn’s performance as he confronts his life choices that give the movie real heart.
TLDR: Come for the music and period hijinks, stay for the interesting meditation on art and artists and how they relate to the people around them, as well as a fantastic breakout turn by Samantha Morton, who was nominated for an Oscar for her work in the film.
2. Out of Sight – 1998
This is the first of two Steven Soderbergh movies on my list. Soderbergh launched his career with this adaptation of an Elmore Leonard movie starring two of the sexiest people in Hollywood at the time. Soderbergh originally came to prominence, winning at Sundance and Cannes, and gaining an Oscar nomination for his writing of 1989’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape. But he didn’t really launch his directing career until 1998’s Out of Sight, a twisty turny crime caper about an escaped bank robber who falls in love with the US Marshal who is out to catch him. The film flits back and forth in time with little warning, but the editing and storytelling are all so good that it just grabs you from the beginning and doesn’t let you go. The tone is playful throughout, with dialogue that sounds like it was lifted from the original Leonard novel, until they both realize that you can’t play forever, and sometimes the real world catches up with you. Writing this makes me want to watch it again tonight…
TLDR: A bank robber escapes from prison and falls in with his pursuer. Come for the sex appeal, stay for the laughs, thrills, and sparkling dialogue.
3. The Limey – 1999
Released the year after Out of Sight, The Limey was pitched in its previews as an action movie…but it really wasn’t, and I think that hurt it with audiences who saw Terence Stamp and Peter Fonda as its stars and said, “who?” At its core, the movie is about revenge. Terence Stamp is an angry father trying to find out what happened to his daughter, who was last seen as arm candy on Peter Fonda’s arm. Once again, Soderbergh doesn’t present the story in a linear narrative, but rather as the impressions and narratives presented by the various stories that the characters tell each other. It’s simultaneously a standard genre film, as well as an art house film that redefines how even a normal conversation can be structured in a movie. The film is massively entertaining, with memorable characters at every turn. On a side note, if you watch on DVD/Bluray, make sure to watch it again with the commentary on between the writer, Lem Dobbs, and Soderbergh. Sparks fly as Dobbs critiques Soderbergh again and again, accusing him variously of being a bad director, or just flat out ruining his movie.
TLDR: Terence Stamp is out for revenge and won’t stop until he gets it!
4. The Crossing Guard – 1995
Sean Penn’s second directorial effort is both heartbreaking and earnest. The movie opens with Anjelica Huston in a therapy group of people who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers, and the movie doesn’t get any lighter from there. It’s a movie about loss, revenge, grace, and redemption. It’s not subtle, but the subject matter isn’t subtle either. This is one that I’ve agonized over including on this list. The pros are that it made a real impact on me when I saw it, and the cons are that I’m not sure that it holds up as well as some of the other films on this list. There is some very 90’s acting and filmmaking here, and Sean Penn isn’t always a fantastic director. The movie was reviewed quite poorly when it came out, but David Morse is a standout to me as the villain who refuses to remain the villain, and the ending still moves me to this day.
TLDR: Jack Nicholson is going to get his revenge, even if it kills him in the process.
5. Three Colors: Red – 1994
I’m cheating a little here, because Three Colors: Red is the third film in the Three Colours Trilogy by the Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski. The three films are Blue, White, and Red, from the three colors of the French flag, and loosely follow the ideals that the colors are meant to represent. Roger Ebert called them an anti-Tragedy, an anti-Comedy, and an anti-Romance. They’re all great, but Red is clearly the first among equals. By turns mysterious, romantic, and even transcendent, Red is almost a perfect movie. In its cinematography, acting, production design, and even pace and timing, it has no equal. If you decide to watch Red first, it’s fine, just go back and watch the other two movies and you’ll realize that you want to watch Red again just to see all the ways that Kieślowski connects the stories together.
TLDR: A woman who is unhappy in a long distance relationship meets a mysterious stranger who changes her entire outlook on life.
Three Colors: Blue directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski – 1993
Three Colors: White directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski – 1994